OSU blueberry tree could make harvesting more efficient

blueberry tree
Berry specialist Wei Qiang Yang is prepping blueberry trees for a possible 2018 release to nurseries. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

Tree yields compare favorably with blueberry bushes

Growers harvest blueberries by machine to reduce labor costs. But because blueberry bushes have multiple stems, the catch plates on the machines cannot fully encircle each stem. So producers lose 15 percent to 25 percent of their fruit. Instead of changing the machine, OSU is changing the plant. At the university's North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Clackamas County, researcher Wei Qiang Yang grafted three popular blueberry varieties onto undomesticated blueberry tree rootstocks from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. So far, yields have compared favorably to their domesticated cousins. A grafted Aurora yielded 1.07 pounds of blueberries per tree—18 percent higher than an Aurora bush. A grafted Draper tree averaged 0.60 pounds of fruit—9 percent high than a Draper bush. If results continue to show promise, the blueberry tree could be released to nurseries in 2018. The research would benefit an industry that's economically important to Oregon. The state's growers sold $107.5 million of blueberries in 2012.

Sources: Wei Qiang Yang; U.S. Department of Agriculture

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